Twenty-five years ago
I read a book about the Alexander Technique. The photos and detailed
instructions opened my eyes to a new and exciting way of moving.
As a teenager in the
forties my family was always reminding me to, “Stand up straight.”
I would throw my shoulders back and try, but I couldn’t hold that
position. Soon I would be slouched down.
a new way of instructing his students that involved a gentle movement
of the head before starting any physical activity. I interpreted
this to mean I should move my head slightly up from between my shoulders
and then move my torso up from my pelvic area. I felt such a lightness
and ease that I thought, “This is the answer to my slouching problem.”
Fifteen years later
I found the Performance School in Seattle. Seven dedicated young
persons, who had learned the Technique from Marjorie Barstow in
Lincoln, Nebraska, used their after-work hours and weekend time
to instruct others in the Technique.
I observed the miracle
of change in the movement of the mostly younger people who participated
in these classes. I could also see that learning to think through
changes in walking, sitting at the computer, running and other daily
activities gave them a look of confidence in their abilities.
Those who wanted to
improve their talking, singing, dancing, acting or playing of a
musical instrument were encouraged to use the Alexander Technique
before starting these activities.
At age sixty my ingrained
habits were harder to change. The first instruction to think, “My
neck is free,” seemed an impossibility. Well, I did it! When I tell
friends to think their neck is free, they grab their neck and the
look on their faces says, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Believe me
it works. Try it!
The next instruction
was to think of letting my head go forward and up (the opposite
of the slouch). The instructors with a gentle suggestion from their
hands slowed me how to do this. Next was to let my body follow.
This was also taught was a gentle suggestion of the instructors’
hands on the lower back area just below the rib cage.
Learning the Alexander
Technique was difficult for me. The teachers would suggest, “Let’s
see if we can find a better way.” But the “better” way sometimes
felt strange at first. They often asked, “What are you noticing?”
Since the Technique is based on thinking, not just feeling, I had
to learn to observe whether my body was moving in a more relaxed,
efficient way. This in turn helped sell my mind on staying with
the work. Learning the Alexander Technique has produced good results
for me not only in my physical well being but in knowing how to
think though changes in other areas of my life where old habits
have also been hard to break. I wish teenagers and senior citizens
could experience the benefits of the Technique.
For the first time this
year (1999) I was able to attend the eight-day Marjorie Barstow
Summer Institute at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. At the Institute,
the interaction and observation of a group of learnings being taught
by several very different teachers was wonderful.
It was a low-key, marvelous
experience living in a dorm, eating in the cafeteria, walking to
classrooms across a pleasant campus and becoming acquainted with
an interesting group of learners and teachers. An added bonus was
the option of doing early-morning Tai Chi and late-afternoon Feldenkrais
Most importantly I
learned so much that was valuable for what I hope to do.